by E. L. Zimmerman

Chapter 28

Waiting in the pouring rain, the Doctor excitedly greeted Captain Janeway, Senator Packell, and Harry Kim at the Besaria Spaceport when the ship landed.

"Captain, word has spread throughout Besaria City about the One's demise," he explained. "It was as if the flood gates opened. Everyone … every species here … they’ve started evacuating the planet." He held up his holographic hands. "They’re celebrating! They’re cheering! Once Commander Chakotay deactivated the planetary shield, they crammed themselves into every remaining spacecraft they could find that would still fly." Leaning close, the Doctor warned, "Captain, some of those craft weren't space-worthy, in my opinion, but the Lemm insisted on escape. It was insane recklessness!"

She smiled, looking across the decrepit spaceport at those who remained, standing around in the rain, waiting for the comrades to complete modifications to the remaining craft so that they, too, could get airborne. The people of Besaria were elated, occasionally seen jumping up and down, patting one another on the shoulder, and even hugging incessantly.

"Their shackles have been thrown off, Doctor," the captain explained. "To them, that’s progress, and there’s no stopping progress."

"But to risk their own lives in craft that might collapse under the pressure of space flight?" he asked incredulously. "That’s nothing short of suicide!"

"I can't say that I blame them, Doctor, reckless or not," she told the man. "I'd run to ... but I had some friends I had to come back for, present company included."

"I would hope so," the Doctor replied. "Frankly, I, for one, cannot take another minute of this rain."

"Doctor," Packell admired, stepping forward with a broad smile, "this is only our winter. If you think this is rain, just wait until spring!"

"With all due respect, senator," the Doctor offered, "I hope we will be long gone by that time."

The streets of Besaria were filled with every species imaginable. The lights over the once-darkened city were now burning brightly.

"Ambassador?" she heard.

She turned into the arms of Packell, rewarding her with a warm and grateful hug. "I want to thank you, Kathryn, for the sacrifices that you and your crew made for my people."

"Nonsense, Packell," she said, returning his affection by generously patting him on the back. "What was done, we did together. And, we did it for all of us."

The two members of the Quorum stared at one another for a moment, taking time to relish their mutual feelings of elation, ignoring the fact that they were rapidly getting drenched.

"I must find my lifemate," the Trakill finally said with a smile, "before she decides to leave home without me in all of this jubilation."

"Give her my regards, Packell," the captain replied. "She has a fine husband … and I suspect that her people will have an outstanding new leader." She set her hand on his shoulder. "You can follow your faith again, the teachings of Solahh," she added warmly. "Start rebuilding what was taken from you immediately. The desire to abandon the planet and start over elsewhere will be strong, but it would be a mistake to give up Besaria. You’ve fought too long and too hard. Leaving here … that's what the One would have you do."

She removed her hand from his shoulder and pointed to the ground. "This is your home. Get back to your civilization. Get back to cultivating your land. Do what you can to rebuild those tapestries, from your memory if need be, and return the Grand Hall and the city to its rightful beauty." She smiled wryly at him. "Otherwise, the losses you’ve suffered for so long will have been for nothing."

Graciously, Packell nodded. Then, he raised his right hand and pressed his three fingers to her forehead. "The Essence of my people," he said, "goes with you on your journey. Captain, I will personally see to it that the new tapestries will also bear the name of Voyager ... and its crew."

Then, he quickly disappeared amongst the throng of anxious travelers building around the spaceport.

"Quite a joyous fellow," the Doctor remarked.

"A kindred spirit, Doctor," Janeway said. "Come on."

"Where are we going?" Harry asked, taking up stride with his captain.

"To find the others."

"In this madness?" the EMH asked.

"I'm back in command, Doctor," she told him. "You're coming with me. That's an order!"

The Doctor raised his eyebrows.

Nodding, he teased, "My, my. I guess things are getting back to normal."

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